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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Jun 27, 2022

Last time we spoke, Xiong Tingbi had created a grand defensive strategy that paved the way for the defeat of the Jin invaders. However he was soon impeached and executed, a victim to his rivals in the Ming Court. Despite this his defensive strategy would live on with the appointment of Sun Chengzong. We also talked about the rise of the Sea King Mao Wenlong and how his crazy antics impressed the Ming Court. Yet something was not right about Mao Wenlong’s victories, they simply did not add up. Then at the last hour when all hope seemed to be lost for the lonesome commander, Yuan Chonghuan at the fortress of Ningyuan a miracle happened. The cannon expert managed to not only defeat the Jin invaders at Ningyuan, he also managed to kill the great Khan Nurhaci. With the death of Nurhaci, what will the Jin empire do next?

Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more  so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

This episode is Wrath of Hung 


In the wake of Nurhaci’s death, his son Hung Taiji became the new Khan of the Jin Empire. Hung faced many rivals amongst his own relatives when he took power. Interestingly enough Hung began his Khanhood by flirting with some peace talks with the Ming. Hung laid out 2 conditions for peace, the first that the Ming should send tribute to the Jin, the second that a border be fixed at Shanhaiguan. In return the Jin would also send the Ming tributary gifts, thus the Jin would be below the Ming Emperor, but above the Ming officials, honestly a fair arrangement. Emperor Tianqi warned his officials not to enter peace talks lightly, but did seem to heed to offers. Now historians think Hung was perhaps doing all of this merely to raise his own authority in the grander scheme of things. To talk the way he was to the Ming Dynasty really elevated the status of the Jin. Another major reason historians argue as to why Hung began these peace talks was to buy time for a new operation. Somewhat as a result of the Sea King Mao’s ventures, raiding on the Bohai coast drew attention to the unfortunate land due south east of it, Korea. Hung chose to invade Korea to secure his flank for anticipated attacks on the western Ming front. The Ming held an overwhelming advantage in resources and some of those resources such as food came from Korea. By defeating Korea, Hung could extract tribute, such as much needed food supplies from the koreas and stop it from getting into the Ming’s hands. The Korean’s for their part were aiding and abetting the sea king Mao by shielding many of his raiders within Korea. Though they did this begrudgingly might I add as they did not trust Mao.


The Jin sent 30,000 troops over the Korean border in 1627 easily overrunning the border towns. When they advanced on Uiji, Mao fled into the Bohai gulf with some of his forces. Soon the Jin captured Anju, Pyongyang and were quickly crossing the Taedong River. The battle for Anju was very intense and when the defenders knew they were going to be beaten they allegedly blew themselves up with gunpowder. As soon as the word got out of the invasion, the Ming dispatched a relief force to help the Koreans. Meanwhile the royal family of Korea fled to Kanghwa island and tried desperately to bribe the Jin to stop. Hung was amenable to this and left only 1000 Jurchen and 200 Mongols at Uiji and 300 Jurchen and 1000 Mongos at the Fortress of Zhenjiang, allegedly to guard against raids by Mao. After this point, the Joseon Dynasty now had a tributary relationship under the Jin state. The relationship was that of an older brother and younger brother unlike the Ming-Joseon tributary relationship which was more like that of a father and son. Hung also pressed the king of Korea to stop trade with the Ming. Meanwhile Yuan Chonghuan was impeached at once because many in the Ming Court perceived him to have been duped by the Jin when entering into peace talks, while the Jin were simply biding time to invade Korea. 


Hung next struck out at Jinzhou not too far away from the island of Juehua. Hung led 40,000 troops against the city which held 30,000 defenders under the commander Zhao Shuaijiao. Emperor Tianqi immediately ordered a relief force of 30,000 to rush to its aid as Hung’s army began their siege. The Jin scaled the walls of Jinzhou with siege ladders as the defenders rained arrows, rocks and cannonfire upon them. The battle raged for over 12 hours until the Jin pulled back to their camp. Zhao allegedly shouted out over the walls “You can keep attacking the city but we’re not coming out!”. Enraged, Hung would continue the attacks upon the city for several days, but it did not fall. Hung in frustration took some of his forces back to probe nearby Ningyuan where there was an advancing Ming column out in the open field. The Ming column attacked the Jin as the wall cannons of Ningyuan aided them, forcing the Jin to flee back to their camp beside Jinzhou. Despite this the Ming did not come over to his camp, thus Hung resumed the attack on Jinzhou despite the advice to not do so by some of his sub commanders and for his efforts the Jin received thousands of casualties. Hung in frustration simply continued to attack Jinzhou, now from a different side of the walls. The Jin corpses began to pile up and finally Hung gave the orders to retreat after losing 2-3 thousand men. The battle became known as the Great Ming victory of Ning-jin. Hung learnt a painful but valuable lesson from all of this.


Taking a look back at the situation in Korea, the Korean were very leery of the Jin, but also of Mao Wenlong whose adventurism got them into the terrible situation they were in. The Joseon Court was divided as to how best to deal with the Jin-Ming situation. Some thought Korea had no place in the Jin-Ming war, others argued the very preservation of the Joseon Dynasty was owed to the Ming. The Ming eventually installed a new King named Injo in Korea and began to twist his wrist to their side. They wanted Korea to cut off ties with the Jin and to adopt a more pro-Ming policy. This of course meant working with Mao Wenlong who they deeply distrusted. The Koreans continued to report that Mao was exaggerating his claimed fights against the Jin and was actually spending most of his time hiding on islands. They also lamented over Mao’s army consuming a ton of Korean food rations while achieving little in return. Yet whenever they made these statements to the Ming court, Mao would also come along with some Jin heads to showcase his achievements. Still there were those in the Ming Court growing wary of Mao, theorizing he might be actually working with the Jin and planning to rebel against the Ming. Mao continued to demand more and more supplies from the Koreans to feed refugees fleeing from the Jin state, a process that had begun when Nurhaci died, quite a few inside the Jin territory fled. The Koreans acquiesced, handing over provisions, but Mao stated it was not enough. Mao then began to open up markets on his islands and offered to protect merchants willing to trade there. Then he attempted to produce his very own coinage with metals extracted from Korea. THENNN he asked the Joseon Court to make fewer tributary missions to the Ming and instead help build up his trade monopoly in the gulf. Well the Ming began to see the illicit trading going on. Then in 1627, Emperor Tianqi died and was succeeded by his younger brother, Zhu Youjian, becoming Emperor Chongzhen. When Chongzhen took the throne he felt he had 2 major problems: 1 the court needed a cleansing of the enormous power of the eunuchs and their supporters, 2 Liaodong needed to be pacified. His first act as emperor was to recall the Eunuch military inspectors from the frontiers. This led one of the Eunuchs favorite supportive commanders, Wei Zhongxian to believe he was soon going to be arrested soon and thus he hung himself. I have not stated it too much at this point, but a large issue that was growing was the dispatching of Eunuchs as military inspectors all around China. The Eunuchs began to be quite meddlesome and their authority kept growing. Then the emperor set about micromanaging everything and demanded his officials bring him all reports. It seemed from the offset, unlike his predecessor, this Emperor was going to be a very active ruler. But this would have an adverse affect. In his efforts to stop factionalism with the dynasty, the new Emperor who tried to control everything made it much harder for any policies to be implemented. In turn this actually contributed to making it more factional, as every sign of possible failure was pounced upon by enemy factions on another. The emperor also would have a bad tendency to execute competent officials for minor setbacks. 


With the new emperor came the reappointment of Yuan Chonghuan as Censor in chief of the right. He was also given supreme command of military affairs in the northeast. Yuan proclaimed to the emperor that he could recover all of Liaodong in just 5 years time if they implemented his defensive strategy that he had been using before being impeached. He advocated that the people in the Jin state were starving and now fleeing as a result, the best course of action was to “use the people of Liaodong to defend Liaodong and the land of Liaodong to nourish the people”. While the Emperor fully endorsed his plans, Yuan would unfortunately only receive around 40% of the funding he asked for. Reduced funding was a problem everywhere in the frontier, many places faced multiple mutinies.


Upon his appointment Yuan first turned his attention to the sea king Mao, he wanted to evaluate the troops strength of Bohai so they could better coordinate their operations. Mao told him that he had 28,000 serviceable men, but not enough food supplies to support them. Now while Mao was telling Yuan this, Yuan was receiving reports from an informant with the Jin that Mao was secretly negotiating with them. Thus Yuan resolved to act decisively. Yuan began to funnel supplies through his own bases, curtailing Pidao, the stronghold of Mao. Now it is theorized Mao had been in secret talks with the Jin as early as 1622, but Nurhaci had died before any concrete agreements were made. Hung Taiji did not trust Mao and broke talks off when he launched his invasion into Korea. But after his setback in 1627 at Ningyuan, Hung Taiji realized he lacked the strength to fully engage the Ming and the Jin were also very low on food supplies, leading to many refugees fleeing to none other than Mao. So this led Hung to open up talks again with Mao, and by 1628 Mao was pretty fearful his charade with the Ming was in jeopardy. And he was certainly right about that, as Yuan finally resolved to pay Mao a personal visit bringing with him a significant contingent of loyal troops. Yuan met with Mao and asked him to relocate to a base closer to China proper rather than Korea and to coordinate operations with him. Mao protested against this stating it was important he kept near Korea to keep them in the fold, which was the very opposite of what he was actually doing. Now for a few days, Yuan would keep persisting to try and meet with Mao and ask him to come closer into the fold with him and other Ming officials, and Mao would continuously find reasons not to do so. Each day, Yuan would hand out gifts and rewards to Mao’s soldiers. Then one day Yuan began asking Mao’s officers their surnames and they kept answering “Mao”, which Yuan found very curious. He then asked them how they could complain about rations when they had been sent ample supplies from Ningyuan. He proceeded to ask where had all the supplies gone to, to which the men began to weep and bow before Yuan. Yuan then  berated Mao for squandering funds without overseeing all he had been entrusted with concluding “where has all the money we sent you from Ningyuan gone?”. Mao protested upon which Yuan said “You can till look me in the eye, but how can you resist the imposition of national law as imposed by the sagacious son of heaven as derived from heaven with brave martiality. “You were given the authority of a general. But now you, Mao Wenlong, have treacherously raised yourself to the level of a lord, amassed soldiers, siphoned off rations, slaughtered the refugees of Liaodong, despoiled Korea, harassed Denglai, carried out illicit commerce, looted and plundered commoners’ boats, changed people’s names, and violated the people’s sons and daughters. These are the crimes for which you will be put to death.”. Mao pleaded for his life and Yuan turned to his commanders and asked them if they disagreed with the charges adding “if you don't think I should kill him, then you may come forward and kill me”. No man budged at this, and Yuan took up a double edged sword and decapitated Mao in front of them all stating “The punishment was only for Mao Wenlong. The rest of you have committed no crimes”. Then Yuan presided over a funeral for Mao stating “ “Yesterday I killed you by the order of the emperor; this was in accordance with the Court’s law, but today I offer you oblations and this is in accordance with my own personal feelings.”. Thus ended the great sea king Mao Wenlong, who might I add was stealing all the limelight from Yuan’s great achievement at Ningyuan. Yuan divided the 28,000 former troops of Mao into 4 wings, with 1 wing given to a son of Mao named Mao Chenglu. He disbursed money to all the soldiers making sure they were properly organized and paid. Yuan then set out to Korea to report to them his execution of Mao. While the Koreans shed no tears for the death of Mao, the man who had caused them some much trouble, many were concerned with what his death would mean for Korea. 


Another problem loomed for the Ming dynasty was occurring in the northwest. Since 1627 a widespread drought had hit Shaanxi. Food prices skyrocketed, people began to starve and many fell into banditry. For the past 60 years or so, not a single year went by without at least 1 natural disaster occuring. To add insult to injury, because the Ming were so preoccupied with the Jin in the northeast, most funding and supplies also went there. Peasant rebellions began rising up, one under Wang Jiayin who assembled a large force of starving peasants to raid parts of the Great Wall. Soon army deserters joined the ranks and before long all of Shaanxi was falling into chaos. Wang Jiayin held some 5-6 thousand followers, one of them being Zhang Xianzhong, someone who would deeply impact the future. The Ming sent forces to quell the rebellion, but the rebels would simply flee into the mountains, and re-emerge later to raid more. The Ming eventually appointed Yang He as supreme commander of the 3 border regions of Shaanxi. He identified the key problems in the northwest to be 1) supply issues, 2) constant threat of Mongol raids and 3) dereliction of duty by local officials. His answer was to improve the administration and to try and pacify the rebels by encouraging them to surrender in exchange for food or agricultural opportunities. Meanwhile officials in other areas were simply employing Mongol allies to help smash rebel forces which did a lot to dissuade rebels from surrendering overall. Seeing the looming problem, the Emperor ordered famine relief to be sent to Shaanxi, but this would not stop the rebellions from springing up more and more. Eventually Yang He was impeached for his apparent too light of a touch approach and was replaced by Hong Chengchou.


Back to the warfront, in 1629 the Jin began an invasion of Da’ankou and Zunhua, bolstered by their Mongol allies. The Jin forces first captured Jizhou with the aid of Ming fifth columnists. The commander of Jizhou had his own men turn on him, trying to force him to surrender, he refused and his men soon were routed and he alongside them fell to the rain of arrows. Sun Chengzong was appointed Minister of War and given command of the armies at Tongzhou as Man Gui prepared a force of 5000 to face the Jin at Shunyi. Man’s force were soon driven back towards Deshengmen. Hou Shilu’s force was nearby and was routed, leaving Man on his own. Man enjoyed a lot of artillery support from the walls, but his forces were ironically hit by friendly fire and had to pull back within the cities walls losing over 40% of his troops, yikes. Now the Jin were a threat to Deshengmen, so Yuan Chonghuan turned his focus northeast, taking tons of forces from garrisons all over to drive the Jin away. Yuan's efforts won out and they did push the Jin back and now Yuan began to strengthen the defenses at the city. At Deshengmen the Jin re-commenced their attacks, managing to kill Man Gui and routed Zu Dashou’s army who fled east. More Ming forces tried to push the Jin back around the Marco Polo Bridge but it was a disaster, the men routed yet again and many Ming commanders were captured. As more and more troops were plucked from the west to meet the invaders, a general panic began to emerge in the capital. Ming officials were being executed left right and center and many of the relief forces being sent to the northeast were looting Ming cities enroute to Beijing. Yongping fell to the Jin in 1930 and the Jin just kept coming. There were quite a few setbacks at this point, many fortresses managed to fight off the Jin. Hung Taiji sent some letters to Yuan Chongzhen trying to come to some terms, but received no replies. Hung eventually decided to take his forces back to Shenyang leaving behind some of his commanders to occupy the newly conquered cities. Now the Ming attempted to gather forces near Luanzhou and Yongping to launch a counter attack.


Yuan Chonghuan then was impeached, because it was believed by some in the Ming Court that he was secretly working with the Jin. Turns out Hung Taiji had leaked false information to Ming Court officials about him working with Yuan. It did not help Yuan’s cause that he had recently executed the sea king, who was still loved by many officials. Also that friendly fire that hit the forces of Man Gui, was done by Yuan’s forces, and they happened to also be rivals, so there was an air of conspiracy going around. Thus Yuan was tossed into jail while his forces were actually doing quite well by this point, driving the Jin back past the Great Wall. Eventually the Ming forces reached the fortress of Luanzhou in mid 1630 as the Jin tried to slow them down via diplomacy. The Ming forces brought with them heavy artillery and now it was the Jin desperately trying to hold onto a fortress while being besieged. The Jin utilized all the tactics they had seen the Ming use: tossing burning pots of oil, rocks and logs, using cannons, amongst other defenses. The Ming’s artillery however was so fierce, the Jin knew they had to try something else. Thus a Jin forces came rushing out of the eastern gate trying to attack a force led by Zu Dashou, but they were met with intense crossbow fire and had to flee back into the city. The Jin were so low on ammunition, that allegedly they began to use severed heads as projectiles, eeek. Eventually it was incendiaries being lobbed over and fire arrows that smoked the Jin out of the city, who had to flee. In turn 4 more large walled cities and 12 fortresses were taken back by the Ming in 1630, with over 3300 Jin troops captured.


But by no means was the Jin excursion in any way a failure, they had plundered a considerable amount and the raiding had exposed many weaknesses in the Ming’s ability to wage wage. For one thing, Hung Taiji’s sneaky ploy against Yuan that got him impeached simply by sending false information, proved the Ming were quite incompetent and perhaps more efficient commanders could be taken off the board using similar tactics. In the wake of the invasion, for the Ming a debate began to brew as to how best to defend the capital if it came to that. One idea was to employ more Portuguese cannons, and in 1930 they would get their hands on 30 new ones from Goncalbo Teixeria Correa. However some in the Court were suspicious of the westerners and thought they might be working for the Jin. Regardless, a few Portuguese would end up training Ming forces in gunnery and how to create the cannons. One major supporter of utilizing the Portuguese knowledge and weaponry was Xu Guangqi who further proposed a new style brigade; outfitted with new wheeled wagons pulling cannons alongside a considerable specialized infantry gunnery force. The Ming also began to put pressure on the Bohai coast by putting to use their naval units to link up with their Korean allies. Their idea was to open up a new front by using coastal defenses, perhaps by mustering troops from Lushun and the many islands in the gulf.


Meanwhile the poor imprisoned Yuan Chonghuan was executed via dismemberment in the marketplace, and many saw him as a “fall guy” for the Jin excursions of 1630. As for the man he executed, Mao Wenlong had a long lasting effect on the Bohai region even after his death. It seemed now the gulf had become the focal point for Sino-Korea relations and joint military operations. The Jin took notice of this and realized the best way to prevent the two dynasties from cooperation would be to sever their communication/transport network. The Jin required legitimization of their state and a major component of that was to exact tribute from other places like Korea. Mao for his part brought so much bad attention to the Jin Korea border and after his death, his former forces continued to be a problem for the Ming. They continued to beg for supplies while doing little militarily in return. Then in late 1630, a revolt occurred on Pidao island led by Liu Xingzhi, to which the Ming tried to appease him and his forces by sending supplies, but the Jin were able to stop them from getting out of Lushun. Eventually the Ming did manage to get supplies to Liu Xingzhi and talked him down, but the underlying problem still loomed. 


With the competent Yuan Chonghuan taken out of the picture and the Korean flank secured, Hung Tiaji now decided to hit the important fortress of Dalinghe. Dalinghe was the most forward Ming base in Liaodong and the largest threat to the Jin capital of Shenyang, yeah did I ever mention the capital was back at Shenyang? The Jin capital moves around a  lot hard to keep track of. Dalinghe had been heavily fortified, with 13, 800 troops as a garrison and many more on the way. Hung Taiji had intel, that the Ming were undergoing a massive construction project at Dalinghe to reinforce it even more and was eager to hit it before it became too well defended. Another large worry was that if Dalinghe was made impenetrable, it might entice the Ming-Joseon to consolidate more trade and resources into the region thus kicking the Jin out. In preparation for the attack, Hung created his first ever, entirely Han divisions, whom would eventually become the Han banners. Leading them was Tong Yangxing who was tasked with overseeing the construction of 40 Western style cannons. By 1631, Tong’s efforts were greatly rewarded as he was given command over all Han under the Jin state. In July of 1631, Hung’s army of 80,000 reached Dalinghe and began to construct a large network of siege weapons. Hung took to heart how his father Nurhaci had died at Ningyuan, knowing suicidal frontal assaults were no longer the way to go about things. Hung’s siege weapons were soon set upon the Ming defensive towers. Tong’s oversaw the red cannons: Ie: western style cannons, as they would smash Dalinghe’s most vulnerable posts. Meanwhile Hung took some forces to Jinzhou to guard against Ming relief forces. The Jin siege weapons devastated the outlying defense towers in under a week. One of the commanders of Dalinghe, Zu Dashou led a couple of sorties, inflicting considerable casualties but being forced back into the city each time. When some Ming relief forces showed up, Tong’s red cannon force defeated 2 small armies at Songshan and Jinzhou. Hung also defeated a relief army later on at Jinzhou. Now Hung needed to try something to get the Dalinghe defenders to come out, so he began circulating false reports of Ming relief forces being on the way and requiring their assistance. Zu Dashou fell for this ploy and came out, and was immediately ambushed but managed to crawl back into the city. Another relief force of 40,000 tried to help the city in August, but were easily turned back at Changshan. 


The siege would enter a new phase when Hung began sending letters to Zu Dashou trying to get him to defect. In one letter Hung said “Who does not desire peace but rather wished for war? Now that our peace talks have been severed, I want to strengthen my state, to extend happiness and prosperity; this is my wish. If the general believes I am sincere, please send a reply”. Well Zu Dashou replied he would die in defense of Dalinghe, buuuuut that he also feared for the safety of his family should the city fall. This prompted Hung to pledge he would not kill anyone stating “the slaughter of people in Liaodong happened during Nurhaci’s reign but we are different. In my state we make use of soldiers. Those who should be punished are punished. Those who can be of use are employed. As some can tell you, my kindness is great. For those who submit you can rest assured that my kines will be extended”. Rations in Dalinghe were running out, so much aso that people began to eat horses and then if its to be believed resorted to cannibalism as well. Meanwhile Beijing was wondering what was happening, while those in Dalinghe wondered why no relief forces were showing up. The situation was hopeless and Zu Dashou surrendered.


The people within Dalinghe had suffered 80 days of starvation, it is estimated 11,632 people were left alive when it was captured. In exchange for his life and his families, Zu pledged allegiance to Hung and would assist him in taking Jinzhou and Songshan. Zu Dashou was showered with gifts and even shared wine with Hung as they planned their attack on Jinzhou. Zu Dashou’s plan was that he alongside 350 men would go on ahead pretending to be refugees to get inside Jinzhou and open the gates for Hung. As you might have guessed,  instead Zu Dashou rejoined the Ming and requested a dismissal from his post for failing at Dalinghe. So he pulled a fast one on Hung to save his family and men from death. Despite that, Hung had acquired a lot of firearms at Dalinghe which accelerated their growing firearms program. Hung told Tong to manufacture as many new cannons as possible, stating “even 1 hundred cannon were not too many and even 100,000 catties of gunpowder was still too little”. The Jin cannon industry secretly began to flourish under the oversight of Tong, though he would die in 1632 and be succeeded by Shi Tingzhu, another Ming defector. 


With the firearms program being built, Hung also began to develop his army structure more. He organized a left and right wing led by Ming defectors, Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming. The story of how both these Ming defected will be told shortly as they are key players. Both these men had convinced Hung to create Han banners to augment his army and thus these forces they commanded became artillery wings, expanded into 4 units which eventually evolved to become the Han banner of the 8 banner army. 


Meanwhile the Ming Court was quite dismayed by the loss of Dalinghe. Yuan Chongzhen advised constructing more defenses and reinforcing the northeast to prevent further Jin incursions. But a problem was brewing from within yet again. A rebellion had emerged under the leadership of a man named Luo Rucai in the northwest and a subordinate of the late Mao Wenlong named Kong Youde was performing a mutiny. 


As I mentioned previously, the revolt on Pidao under Liu Xingzhi was somewhat quelled, but not extinguished. When Mao was executed, all of his former men began to factionalize, despite the efforts of Ming officials to wrangle them into the fold. Many of Mao’s subordinate officers were given command of the forces, but none of them panned out. All the former commanders under Mao fought to take control of the force while simultaneously struggling to get supplies from the Ming/Joseon/ or even Jin. The Ming tried to transfer many of these commanders around to thwart the mutinies, one man they moved to Shandong was Kong Youde. Kong ended up commanding one of the relief forces sent to help Dalinghe. The force he was given was undersupplied and not at all happy about. Thus enroute to Dalinghe, they looted Ming towns and soon a mutiny had sprung up. The mutineers turned their attention to the port of Dengzhou and Laizhou in January of 1632. Kong’s small force of men enjoyed some success as they had a good amount of firearms, thus they were able to plunder parts of Shandong. Soon the mutineers were a full on rebel group fighting off Ming forces and were working with Mao Chenglu, a son of the sea king who had forces on some islands in Bohai. Kong began to siege Dengzhou and Laizhou while his force of 15,000 rebels simultaneously fanned out to plunder Shandong. The Ming dispatched commanders to stamp out Kong’s rebellion, but Kong had access to the sea which allowed his forces to fight off quite a lot of Ming armies. Kong eventually managed to take Dengzhou and deceived the commander of Laizhou to come out and negotiate with him, where he promptly assassinated him. This prompted Yuan Chongzhen to enact a policy of extermination against Kong’s rebellion. Relief armies rallied up at Changyi and advanced on the rebels at Dengzhou smashing an army that was outside the city there. Parts of the relief army then marched on the rebels besieging Laizhou, prompting Kong to lead 3000 men out of Dengzhou to try and save them. Kong’s force was then caught between the defending forces at Laizhou and the relief army, forces to abandon a lot of their weapons and retreat back to Dengzhou. Kong’s forces tried to fight in the field again, but a decisive battle was won by the Ming at Baima where they killed 13,000 rebels. Now the Ming surrounded and besieged Dengzhou, but Dengzhou was also a port and the Ming had trouble naval blockading it, as Kong had friends helping him in the Bohai gulf. Regardless, Kong's forces held out for 4 months and resorted to cannibalism. Kong planned a breakout, but was caught in an ambush and forced back to Dengzhou in December. This prompted Kong to try and flee via the sea in February of 1633. The Ming pressed on trying to capture islands in the gulf and capture Kong, but he kept evading them. Eventually Kong and one of his fellow commanders Geng Zhongming defected to the Jin. Kong was made a marshal and Geng a commander. Yuan Chongzhen hailed all of this to be a major victory for the Ming, they had quelled a rebellion successfully, however the other side of the coin was that Kong and Geng would be vital to the expanding of the Jin. Hung Taiji took his 2 new allies and had them help him retake the port city of Lushun. Kong and Geng advised Hung that he should attack Lushun with a joint land-sea operation, which would be a first for the Jin. Thus in 1634, the Jin hit Lushun from the land, being repulsed by Lushun formidable cannons, but soon the Ming defenders ran low on ammunition. Then attacks came from the sea and with the simultaneous fronts battering the city, Lushun fell. Now the Jin held a strategic port and could use it to root out Ming power in the Bohai gulf. Hung followed this up by sending a letter to Pidao trying to get its commander to defect.


Meanwhile in the northwest, the successor to Yang He, Hong Chengchou set to work thwarting growing rebellions. Hong proved to have a much firmer hand than He and scored repeated victories over bandits in the early years of his appointment. Hong dished out bonuses to soldiers based on the number of bandits killed which as you would imagine resulted in the slaughter of many bandits as well as commoners. Despite Hong’s efforts, by late 1631 there were an estimated 200,000 bandits still at large, then the following year it would grow to be 300,000 in Shanxi alone. 3 rebellion leaders would emerge here who would play major roles for the next 15 years, Zhang Xianzhong, Li Zicheng and Lao Huihui. In 1632, the Ming Court dispatched the censor, Wu Sheng to investigate the situation in Shaanxi. Wu reported the problem to be starvation and privation. Many commanders were reduced to eating grass and bandit leaders were strolling around with official Ming seals of authority to which he referred to them as “official bandits”. Basically it was bandits who were pacified by the late Yang He who were continuing banditry but under the guise they were changed men. Wu advised the emperor to enact a campaign of extermination and that's just what he did. 200, 000 taels were allocated to help agriculture and sooth the starvation and edits were made that all rebels would be henceforth exterminated. A major issue for the Ming was that the bandits were increasingly enlisting in the Ming military as soon as they had nowhere to plunder. Then after a while in the army, they would desert and return to banditry. This turned into a vicious cycle where the bandits would take advantage of the military troop transfers, to find new regions to plunder, particularly the Liaodong frontier. To make matters so much worse, most of these bandits knew another and were able to form larger rebellions all over the place. Rebels began to hit major cities, and when Ming armies came after them they would simply flee into the countryside. In turn pursuing the rebels left more cities vulnerable to attack. 


In mid 1634, Hung Taiji resumed his invasion of China. This time his forces went through Mongolia with his Mongol allies by his side. They advanced in 4 wings towards Shouzhou, Xuanfu, Datong and the Yellow River. The primary purpose of the assaults was to test Ming readiness and continue to chip away at the morale of the local populaces, exposing the Ming’s inability to protect its subjects. Over the course of 50 days, dozens of Ming fortresses and towns were attacked with various degrees of success. While they performed these operations they sent word to the Ming that they were simply trying to earn recognition as an equal neighboring state, but received no replies. Some officials did reply to the Jin however and this led the Emperor to fall into a state of paranoia that his dynasty was full of traitors. Thus more officials were exiled or executed by the end of 1634. A lot of the time it was Ming officials simplifying trying to opt out rivals that led to this. As bad as things were getting for the Ming, they did manage to grab a few victories and this led them to believe if properly outfitted and led, they could stand up to the Jin threat, especially if it was them dictating the circumstances of battles. But the Ming were hampered by lack of troops, lack of training and lack of supplies, the usual. 


Beginning in 1635, Hung Taiji began the practice of designating the Jurchen peoples as the Manchu, forbidding the term Jurchen. The origin of the term “Manchu” is still argued to this day. Some believe the term arose from the word for “river”, others say it is linked to efforts made by Hung to venerate his father, who claimed to be the reincarnation of the bodhisattva Manjusri. That one in effect may have been an effort by Hung to establish himself as a multi ethnic ruler. Regardless, calling themselves Manchu imbued a sense of unity and significantly departed from the past. It also provided a sort of mythos, or ancient identity befitting a state. Hung  purged Daisan, who he saw as a rival amongst the Jurchen nobles. Hung then had a major victory over the Great Khan Ligdan, leader of the Chahar Mongols, making himself the heir to the Chinggisid line. While he consolidated his inner circle, Hung saw his peace talks with the Ming not coming to fruition and resolved yet again, to invade the Ming. But what was different now, was Hung was now in a position to challenge the Ming on a whole new level, he was about to adopt a dynastic name. He chose the term Qing, meaning “pure” and sent the message to the King of Korea, Injo in early 1636, requesting recognition of the new state. The Joseon dynasty refused to meet with the Qing envoy’s. On top of this the Joseon dynasty was supplying the Ming with rice and other supplies, despite previous agreements with the Jin to not do so. Hung was furious and mobilized an invasion force. But instead of attacking Korea outright, he instead sent investigators to find out why they would not recognize his state and in the meantime set out to attack the Ming. The attack was led by Hung’s brother Ajige and this time they hit Shanxi, razing towns west of its capital. There was a ton of back and forth, but by August, the Manchu’s were driven back east, by a commander named Lu Xiangsheng. Lu was promoted to supreme commander of both Xuanda and Shaanxi and soon recovered many lost towns to the Manchu. Still the Manchu forces got as close as the Marco Polo Bridge and began probing attacks on Shanhaiguan, but were repulsed. The Emperor freaked out, demanding to know from his officials how the Manchu had got so close to Beijing. For the Qing, it was like any other raid they had made countless times over the years. They acquired plentiful booty and further weakened their rival. Now Hung could turn his attention to the pesky koreans. 


The second invasion of Korea would be much bloodier than the first. To prevent the Ming from sending aid, Ajige and other Qing commanders were sent a month ahead to secure the coastal approaches to Korea. In december of 1636 the invasion commenced and Hung went to Zhenjiang to personally direct operations. The Qing commanders, Dorgon, a brother to Hung and Haoge led Mongol wings that swept in towards Seoul. The invasion was quick and overwhelmed the guards of the Joseon capital. Dorgon’s wing defeated 15,000 troops sending other Korean armies to flee. Kong Youde who was now made Prince Gongshun since the creation of the Qing struck out by sea against Kanghwa island and Pidao. The Qing now boasted 70 ships commanded by countless Ming and Joseon defectors hitting the islands with cannon barrages. The Ming lost an estimated 10,000 men trying to defend Pidao. The Joseon King fled to the mountain fortress of Namhan, trying to order his armies into battle as the Qing ransacked Seoul. More and more Korean armies tried to repel the invaders, but to no avail. Soon the Qing forces were setting up a siege of Namhan, when the King began to make peace talks. In the meantime Dorgon had captured the Kings concubines and children from Kanghwa island and displayed them before the army. The Qing used this to threaten the King to capitulate if he wished to save his family. King Injo relented and sent a minister to surrender at the Han River. King Injo sent a son to the Qing as a hostage and turned over his Ming seals of investiture. Hung stated to the Koreans, henceforth their relationship would be that of elder and younger brothers. The Koreans were ordered to now submit tribute as they had done for the Ming, but now to the Qing. They were also ordered to provide boats for the Qing war effort, which was to be a real game changer. In turn the Qing would not harm or loot the subjects of the Joseon dynasty. Now the Ming had lost this important vassal and the Qing had secured their flank and acquired a much needed new source of war supplies. The Qing dynasty was emerging with a real bang.


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With Nurhaci’s death at the legendary battle of Ningyuan, now Hung Taiji was the great Khan. The pesky Sea King Mao Wenlong proved to be faking much of his famed achievements and may have been a turn coat to boot. Yuan Chonghuan got his chance to take out Mao and take his turn in the sunlight unmolested by his rival anymore,  but would ironically fall victim to being called a turn coat himself and be executed. As the Ming lost more and more competent commanders, a new problem emerged and it was internal rather than external. Peasant bandits were spreading in Shaanxi and full on rebellions were soon emerging. Hung Taiji got his hands on some very useful Ming defectors and the military underwent numerous upgrades. Hung Taiji proclaimed his people to be the Manchu under the new Qing dynasty as he defeated all of Korea forcing their tribute to go to the Qing rather than the Ming. Now Hung set his eyes on trying out his new toys upon the Ming.